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Slumber Mountain: a Short Story Response to Bill Holland's Challenge
I stood on the unyielding, jutting ledge, tempted to fly.
‘Come join us!’ shouted the eagles riding the thermals.
‘Come follow us!’ beckoned spirits of dragons, dogs and devils in the clouds.
‘Come meet us!’ offered the miniature roofs, spires and pastures below.
Eyes, Eagles & Clouds
The eyes of the mountain opposite met mine.
Hollowed eyes in a recumbent head. The left one stared, on the brink of a tear, seeming to be suffering from injury, from attack. The right slept, in the mist, beneath a craggy heart itself sheltered by a nursery-rhyme nightcap of snow.
The mountain slumbered, mirroring my feelings; open-eyed pain and a wish to sleep, make the pain go away. For that pain was someone else’s, out of my control, and I knew not what to do.
The eagles appealed, soaring above the world, marking out creatures below, choosing their prey. Such imperial birds dancing on air, playing with the wind, piercing the clouds, their plumage an artist’s best canvas, a palette of brown to gold to white, they ruled the ether.
The clouds shape-shifted with startling visual acrobatics, challenging my imagination to make the best of them whilst unable to sustain substance, crying for credibility. Their presence scarcely supported my dreams.
Abandoned & Forgotten
Once more I surveyed the miniature world below. Toy train tracks trundled my gaze through the lush, mottled-green valley. In one sandy siding lay diverse railway antiques; ruined, rust-red passenger compartments, faded blue freight trucks, grey cattle trucks long devoid of life, engines never again to splutter and belch. Eternal slumber was their destiny. They were abandoned, forgotten, useless, their wheels dying to roll but clamped with ruin.
Closer to my vantage point, a sombre blot damaged a wild meadow. My bird’s eye distinguished a silo attached to a metal roof sweeping down to the grass. Alone, unadorned, thrown together with no style. It had kudos once but now slept in the midday sun, nothing around to bother it, to kick it awake, get it working. It would slide into green oblivion, devoured by bindweed and bramble.
Legacy of Life
Between that and the railway, a church pointed its finger towards me. Dots amid its turf surroundings introduced the graveyard. ‘Neath the vertical stones, bodies slumbered never more to wake but…..
those lives left breath in others, didn’t they?
My thoughts turned to those I’d known, now resting in such places. They were not deceased. They did not cease to exist, did not cease to be useful. My heart and mind were full of their memories, their wisdom, their love, their kindness. But for them, I would not exist.
The stones made us remember. We should never forget.
The old silo narrated a history of lives, of events, of emotions and reactions. I could already see workers moving nearby, approaching the silo with spades, with hammer and nails, with determining strides full of intention.
Redundant machinery held its noble aura of heritage, of evolution, revolution, man’s ingenuity. They had been superseded, yes, but now intrigued and made the young ask questions.
I stood still on the ledge. The mists wiped clear the mountain face, revealing a faint smile beneath the nose. There was life, its snow-cap had begun to thaw, a chink of sparkle pierced the eyelid. The mountain was waking, changing its clothes, shrugging off turbulence.
I too awoke. No longer tempted by the ledge, no longer contemplating the eagles’ suggestion, nor heeding the clouds which held no substance, I did accept the offer to rejoin life below.
The pain remained. I still had no control, no control over what happened in the world, of course not. I did, though, have control over my own reactions, my ability to fight, my choice of whether to give in or to make a difference.
Give & Love
I paid my respects to the mountain, the eagles and the clouds, and left. I made my way down to reality. I could help, I could support, I could spur determination to hold on to precious life.
I would give of my best, whatever I was asked, concentrating on my friends, my loved ones, my family, my world. Grief, pain, worry, they have their place but life itself has to overcome them all.
A state of mind can move mountains, change the world, influence others. Some of us do, some of us don’t. I want to be one of those who do, those who carry others above the crowd to beat the odds, to pull through, to live, to love.
Slumber Mountain shook me up and spat me out. Nature survives the assault of the body and the senses; so can we.
Why Accept a Challenge?
A challenge pushes the boundaries of one’s writing. It’s prompted by someone else, using their personal visual or verbal inspiration and is by definition out of our control.
Not only does it take us out of our comfort zone but it also makes our imagination take a leap, following one of a myriad of possible paths (how far can your brain take you?).
I love visual prompts most of all. I looked at the photos, trying to keep an objective, open mind, to see what they offered. I deliberately kept the prompts in order, to give myself some initial structure. Several avenues opened up to me and the story you have just read is the end product of my choices.
There have been some great responses so far, so why not have a go yourself (if you haven't already done so)?
- The title of the short story must have the word “mountain” in it, and the subject matter of the short story must be, in some way, related to the mountain in the photo. (see hub for photos)
- There are three other photos included in this short article. Your story must, in some way, include and mention those three photos.
- Short story….flash fiction….I don’t care. There is no word limit in this challenge, but you are limited to only one Hub article….no two and three part stories, please. Say what you can in one episode and then you are done.
- Post your entry on HubPages by September 10th.
(also let Bill know when you publish)
My thanks to Bill Holland for setting this challenge. It came at a time of sorrow for a friend and I felt powerless to help. This thought process brought me out of my self pity and made me concentrate on willing strength on someone else.
That someone is a lovely lady who is strong and determined and whom I admire greatly; she is a kind person and a good friend. Whatever happens I know she will face it with grace, fortitude and courage.
(Addendum: Sadly, my friend died in February 2017, facing her end with courage and grace. She lives on in many a conversation, in the flowers of my garden and in the many photos of shared times for which I'm thankful. We miss her physical presence but she is still in our hearts, minds, words and places. RIP, Pat.)
Effects of Hope
Hope helps us survive such situations, along with love of course.
According to some medical sources, "Belief and expectation -- the key elements of hope -- can block pain by releasing the brain's endorphins and enkephalins, mimicking the effects of morphine. In some cases, hope can also have important effects on fundamental physiological processes like respiration, circulation and motor function."
So we can't lose, can we? Even if the desired outcome doesn't happen, we can benefit from just the act of hoping.
Definition & Origin of Hope
- a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen
- a person or thing that may help or save someone
- grounds for believing that something good may happen
- (archaic) a feeling of trust
- want something to happen or be the case
I especially like the archaic definition of a feeling of trust. You have to trust in something to derive hope, be it a person, God, or fate.
Old English: hopa/hopian
Does Nature help you Cope?
What helps you cope with bad news?
© 2016 Ann Carr